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Army Staff Sgt. Joshua S. Gire

Died March 22, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

28, of Chillicothe, Ohio; assigned to 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, Bamberg, Germany; died March 22 in

Bandoka, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

E-6 had deployed previously to Iraq, Kosovo

Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Army Staff Sgt. Josh Gire, a third-generation soldier and graduate of Huntington High School, was killed March 22 in Afghanistan.

The circumstances surrounding Gire’s death remained unclear the day after his death.

Gire, 28, graduated from Huntington in 2000 and enlisted in the Army in 2001, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Uhrig said. This was his second deployment to Afghanistan. He also previously served in Iraq and Kosovo.

“He was one that I never doubted was doing his job and doing it correctly, so I always envisioned him coming home more than anyone else,” Gire’s cousin, Jason Uhrig, said.

Dan Riddle, guidance counselor at Huntington High School, said Gire was “a great role model for some of our younger kids.”

“I would take 100 more students exactly like Josh,” Riddle said.

Gire recently had been promoted to staff sergeant. He was based in Germany, where he lived with his wife, Jackie; their 5-year-old son, Nicholas; and their daughter Riley, who turns 3 Friday.

Kellie Uhrig said Gire also is survived by an older brother, Paul Gire Jr., and two half-brothers, Mike Donahue and Jon Hunt; two stepsisters, Beth Hunt and Sandy Bourne; and his stepfather, Dale Hunt.

“He loved his wife, he loved his family and he was very proud of what he was doing,” Uhrig said.

Gire followed his grandfather, a World War II veteran, and father, a Vietnam veteran, into the Army.

People, flags line Chillicothe streets for homecoming

By Loren Genson

Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Chillicothe streets lined with people fell silent April 9 as a procession for Army Staff Sgt. Josh Gire made its way through the city streets on the way to Haller Funeral Home.

Gire, a Huntington High School graduate, died March 22 in combat in Afghanistan.

“He sacrificed his life for all of us,” Sarah Harmon said. “I think we should be here for him. Everybody in town should be here.”

People who lined Main Street, some in Huntington Huntsmen green and others donning patriotic clothes, said they were proud of Gire’s service and wanted to honor his sacrifice. Michaela Harmon, a sophomore at Huntington High School said although most of her classmates don’t personally know Gire, they were proud of his service.

“I know some of his teachers, who taught him,” she said. “They’ve told us they’re very proud of him.”

Rosie Daughters said she and fellow Blue Star Mothers tied yellow ribbons on trees and signposts along Main Street to mark the event. Daughters, whose son, Capt. Benjamin Daughters, is serving in Afghanistan, said the tribute is important for the Gire family.

“I know it will mean a lot to the family to see all these people here today,” she said. She had just talked to her son earlier that day after he completed a four-day mission in Afghanistan.

She said many local families with sons and daughters serving overseas were in attendance at the procession.

“Something like this, it’s a real, real reality for our families,” she said.

Planeside honors were conducted that morning at Rickenbacker Airport after a military mission completed its task of bringing Gire’s body home.

The procession then traveled down U.S. Route 23 and included Gire’s family, the Ross County Sheriff’s Office, Chillicothe Police, The Patriot Guard, AMVETS Riders, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Highway Patrol and the Lost Tribe Motorcycle Club.

When the procession reached Paint and Main streets, it passed under crossed ladders from the Chillicothe Fire Department and Green Township Fire Department.

Alex Kohls said he doesn’t know the Gire family but brought his son, Jack, 4, to the procession to pay tribute.

“I think it’s important to show support to our troops and the young man who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said, adding he was trying to explain the procession to his son. “Even if he doesn’t understand today, he will someday. That’s why we’re here.”

A public memorial service for Gire will take place April 12 at Gire’s alma mater, Huntington High School, at 1 p.m. Graveside services for Gire will be at 3 p.m. April 15 at Arlington National Cemetery.

‘If you knew him, you loved him’

By Jona Ison

Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Yellow ribbons adorned trees and road signs along Ohio Route 772, leading a path to Huntington High School where Staff Sgt. Joshua Gire was honored and remembered as an all-around great man.

At the school, members of the Patriot Guard lined the entry outside the gym where posters hung, made by current students expressing their gratitude.

The Army had soldiers who switched off guarding Gire’s casket during the viewing.

“Across our nation, not only in this area, around the world, Josh did not do what he did in vain. ... Everyone wants to say ‘Thank you, Josh. Thank you for what you did,’ ” Pastor Dan Lamb said.

At least 400 attended the memorial service while more than 100 others traveled through during viewing hours in the gym of the school from which Gire graduated in 2000. Several of Gire’s childhood friends gathered for the service, looking to each other for support and offering condolences to his family.

Cassie Cahill, 29, said she first heard about her friend’s March 23 combat death in Afghanistan through Facebook.

“I thought it was a horrible rumor. It had to be a mistake. ... I hated to find it out on the Internet ... but now it’s a comfort seeing that everyone feels the same way,” she said.

The reality of Gire’s death sank in April 9 as Cahill and other friends watched the processional bringing him home, she said.

Several area veterans groups also attended the service April 12, offering their fallen comrade a farewell salute. The Patriot Guard and the Veterans of Foreign Wars also gave Gire’s family gifts.

During the service, family shared memories, mostly through letters read by others.

“If you knew him, you loved him. If you didn’t know him, you missed out on an amazing man,” said his sister, Sandra Hunt Bourne.

In a letter from Gire’s wife, Jackie, she wrote about how he always would help his friends, sometimes “a little too much” in her opinion. In the end, he always did as much for his family as possible, making sure their needs were met. He left the discipline of their two small children mostly up to her because, he reasoned, he was often away and did not want them to be at odds with him.

He’d say, “Home is where my wife and kids are, and that’s all that matters.”

“He always thought I was strong, so I will try,” Jackie’s note concluded.

His brother, P.J. Gire, shared through a letter that Gire always was the best at anything he did and they always could talk about everything.

Another brother, Michael Donahue, made a pledge in his letter: “I will teach my kids and your kids what a great man you were.”

Gire’s great uncle, Bill Babb, also spoke proudly of him and others in the family who have served. Babb said we all should be grateful to God and the men and women willing to sacrifice for our freedoms.

“Freedom is never free. It is always purchased with a great cost,” he said.

A poem Gire wrote while in basic training showed how he was unsure of his decision to enlist at first and was a little scared. Other lines of the poem spoke of how he felt “pride when the day finally ends” and that “nothing helps more than to be here for my dad,” who was a Vietnam War veteran.

Ultimately, Gire felt at home with the Army, and he re-enlisted after a break from his initial stint — he originally had signed on in 2001. He even had aspirations of becoming a drill sergeant.

Army Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas said while he didn’t personally know Gire, he could tell by reviewing his service file what a great man he was.

“I was astounded by how quickly he rose in the ranks,” he said, later telling everyone they are a part of Gire’s legacy.

The Army presented the family with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for Gire. The service wrapped with honors by the Army at the entrance to the school. The flag that draped his casket was ceremoniously folded into a tri-fold shape and presented to Jackie. She cradled it and wiped at her tears while the bagpipes played and Gire’s casket was carried back to the hearse.

‘You knew he was a soldier, and that’s what he wanted to do’

By David Berman

Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Before Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Gire became a soldier, he was a Huntsman.

In the moments before Gire’s funeral April 12 at his alma mater, several classmates and one of his teachers remembered the 2000 Huntington High School graduate as a quiet student who could be fiercely competitive on the baseball diamond.

Amy Smith first met Gire in elementary school, and they remained close friends throughout their years at Huntington. She called him “Bub” and he called her “Sis,” she said.

“He was a sweetheart ... he was always the quiet one sitting in the corner [of the classroom], but you knew he was there for you no matter what,” she said.

“He was not one to call attention to himself, but not someone you would forget, either,” said Huntington Middle School Principal Alice Kellough, who taught Gire in high school English class.

“It was surprising to me how focused, dedicated and competitive he was on the baseball field given how reserved he was in the classroom,” she said.

Kellough’s son-in-law — an assistant coach on Gire’s baseball team for a season — received his first and only ejection after arguing a line drive Gire hit was, in fact, a fair ball.

Gire’s sister, Sandra Hunt Bourne, said in her eulogy she forever will see her little brother in every Little League player.

“He was really good,” friend Cassie Cahill said of Gire’s skills on the baseball diamond.

Gire, who played third base for the Huntsmen, dreamed of playing professionally, Smith said.

Playing catch was a favorite childhood pastime of Gire and Huntington classmate Steve Leist.

The pair became fast friends at the age of 2 when Leist’s parents would baby-sit Gire and his brother, P.J.

If Gire and Leist were playing together, chances are they were tossing a baseball, tinkering with an old moped or riding their bikes through the woods, Leist said.

News of Gire’s death stunned his Huntington classmates, in part because “he was the type of guy you never worried about,” Smith said.

“He had the kind of personality where you knew he could take care of himself,” Smith said. “You never had to worry.”

“My mom had to repeat it to me a couple times,” Leist said of learning the news.

Cahill still was in disbelief April 9 as the processional made its way through Chillicothe.

“I couldn’t fathom it,” she said.

But Gire lost his life doing something that was even more meaningful to him than playing baseball, his friends said.

“You knew he was a soldier, and that’s what he wanted to do,” Smith said. “He loved it and wanted to be there. He died for what he believed in.”

Chillicothe soldier laid to rest at Arlington cemetery

By Malia Rulon

Gannett Washington Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. — Staff Sgt. Joshua Gire received a hero’s burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, the hallowed resting ground for the men and women who fight and die for their country.

In the days leading up to his burial, the 28-year-old Huntington High School graduate has been honored and mourned by hundreds of family members, friends, classmates and strangers in his hometown, Chillicothe.

On Friday, he was buried with full military honors and mourned by the nation’s top military leaders.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived at the gravesite a few minutes before the funeral procession made its way to the plot. After the brief ceremony, he and Army Secretary John McHugh took turns kneeling before Gire’s wife and young children to offer their condolences.

Under an intense sun and blue skies spotted with an occasional cloud, six white horses pulled a caisson bearing Gire’s casket. A military band and escort platoon marched behind. About 50 family members and friends followed on foot, walking in silence as a drummer kept cadence.

The military band, standing among the iconic white headstones that dot Arlington National Cemetery, played hymns as six soldiers carried Gire’s flag-draped casket to the gravesite. The soldiers stood at attention, holding the U.S. flag over Gire’s casket.

Gire was killed March 22 from wounds suffered when his unit in the Logar province of Afghanistan was attacked with an improvised explosive device, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

Gire’s unit — the 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade — was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was Gire’s second tour in Afghanistan. He also had done tours in Iraq and Kosovo.

Gire graduated from Huntington in 2000 and enlisted in the Army in 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He re-enlisted after his initial stint ended and dreamed of one day becoming a drill sergeant.

In a poem Gire wrote during basic training that was read at a memorial held at his high school Tuesday, Gire said he felt “pride when the day finally ends.”

On Friday, his wife, Jacqueline, and two young children sat in front of his coffin. His 3-year-old daughter, Riley, squirmed in a relative’s arms. His 5-year-old son, Nicholas, sat quietly next to his mother.

A chaplain said the Lord’s Prayer, and a seven-member firing party aimed their rifles in the air for three shots. The echo of the shots rang out as a lone bugler played taps.

The six soldiers holding the flag over Gire’s casket slowly, and with precision, folded the flag as the military band played “America the Beautiful.” When the last notes had drifted off in the crisp spring day, Brig. Gen. Richard W. Thomas presented the flag to Gire’s wife.

Flags were also presented to Gire’s son, daughter, mother Peggy E. Hunt and father Paul W. Gire, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Gire was awarded the Bronze Star, a decoration given to soldiers for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service, and the Purple Heart, given to those who have been wounded or killed while serving their country.

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